"Yiddish has a very special verb, unknown to most other languages: farginen. It means to open space, to share pleasure; it is the exact opposite of the verb to envy. While envy means disliking or resenting the happiness of others, farginen means making a pact with another individual's pleasure or happiness. This unique word represents the space in which we allow others to express their happiness, feeling of success, or gladness.
"When a person shares the news that he has come into a lot of money, he often has to contend with forced smiles, with muttered and mumbled congratulations. These are verbal attempts at covering up envy, the difficulty people have in dealing with good things that happen to someone else.
"At such times it is hard to avoid averting one's gaze and escaping within, to silent tormenting thoughts. As if in a movie, one hears oneself repeating, in slow motion, 'How wonderful, how nice,' while questions echo inside, such as, 'Why him? What I couldn't do with that much money. . . .' Usually in these situations, the difficulty in dealing with another's happiness is so obvious that the other person perceives it. Many friendships and confidences end in these rapid exchanges, when the worst and often unspoken fears about a friend are confirmed, with very little margin for error.
"Though the envy felt at these destructive moments is real, this doesn't necessarily mean that evil is wished on the person whose happiness is so difficult to share. But sadly, the incident carries deep implications, and any positive goodwill that may exist in the relationship is immediately lost. So it is extremely important to be able to fargint another person.
"Discipline is needed for farginen, because this feeling is rarely natural to human beings in their animal dimension. There is nothing wrong or false about seeking such learning. Like any other kind of social ability, such as not stealing, farginen comes through discipline. . . . When we are able to farginen someone spontaneously, it means we have done the required groundwork of dealing with our self-esteem, at least to some extent. But we will always have to work at reacting to opportunities for farginen, so as not to miss them.
"To develop the ability to farginen, we must first recall from our own experience those moments when we were able to do it. And if this feeling was sincere, it will certainly have been felt with great happiness, a kind of catharsis. To reach farginen is an experience of freedom, in which we find ourselves liberated from the heavy load dragged by those who envy. This is a liberation from the fantasy that we can control the world around us: the very special feeling of not being limited to the sphere of the ego and individual consciousness. . . .
"Discipline is a fundamental factor. The greater the investment in life, the greater value given to the inner self, the easier it is to feel content with one's share in life. And the greater the satisfaction with life, the greater the ability to feel happy, to farginen other people. Every time we are able to celebrate someone else's happiness, we will, by definition, have greater reason to celebrate ourselves. In this way, we can widen our chances for enjoying life, freeing ourselves from the imprisonment of our own luck. Farginen sets up networks of confidence that enrich life.
"It's much easier to suffer with a friend, to help someone who is less fortunate, than to farginen. It's much harder to sincerely share others' happiness. And the consequences are proportional: those whose suffering we share are eternally grateful, while those whose happiness we share will eternally care for us, as true friends."